Why the Law Is an Ass

The Journal (Newcastle, England), March 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Why the Law Is an Ass


Byline: By Denise Robertson

When i moved into a listed building I wanted to restore it properly, so I asked the local planning department for advice.

Their response was to inform me that the previous owner had done some bad things to the house and I would have to put them right.

They neglected to tell me they'd ordered him to do it four years before but never bothered to follow the order up.

A neighbour had to put me right on that.

Dilatory they'd been with him, me they were going to pursue to the bitter end. When I told them it was unfair they agreed. It wasn't fair but it was legal.

They could do it and they would!

I appealed to a government inspector who agreed with me that it wasn't fair, but rubber stamped the decision anyway. It cost me a few thousand pounds.

As you might imagine I don't have a lot of respect for planners.

So I'm quite sure that the planners in Dorset will carry out their threat to demolish the improvements some council tax payers have made to their mobile homes.

A blind 80-year-old will have to pull down her bathroom, two other pensioners will lose their bedroom, another his dining room.

The reason? The extensions leave a five metre gap between the homes and fire regulations say the gap must be six metres. OK. Rules are to be obeyed and the pensioners did build the extensions so why don't they just obey?

They're rebelling because just up the road from their homes is an illegal site, jam-packed by travellers. Many of their caravans are said to be less than six feet apart. As one home-owner says: "How can the council turn a blind eye to them yet be so petty with us?"

Probably because the Government has just asked councils to rigorously enforce the 1989 Model Standards Act, largely ignored until now, while at the same time asking them to go easy on `travellers' as an "ethnic minority".

I have a lot of sympathy with true gypsies. They've been here since the 15th century, probably originating in India, and have pursued a traditional way of life. …

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